Email from Dr Ruth Watkins (virologist and farmer) received May 17 2009Dear MaryI feel incensed by the reporting on (BBC's) Countryfile of the low BTV8 vaccine uptake rates in the North of England this Spring, Cumbria to be exact, where there were lots of Herdwick sheep in the shots of the farmer interviewed who said he and his neighbours had not vaccinated their flocks. In fact, however, this farmer pointed out that he had not finished lambing.The Deputy Chief Vet, Alick Simmons, was shown on the programme saying that farmers were abrogating their share of responsiblity by not vaccinating against BTV8 in England and Wales. The presenter, John Craven, pointed out that by contrast in Scotland vaccination had been compulsory this year so everyone had done it. He also interviewed a butcher who said if there was a large outbreak of BTV in England the cost of meat to the consumer might rise by 10 to 15%. Though the Cumbrian farmer said that vaccinating his sheep would cost £3000 at least including, the lambs , and he could not afford it, this was not followed up by Craven. How much it would have cost a similar farmer in Scotland was not discussed, nor the fact that we are the only country in Europe to insist on a voluntary vaccination policy.The fact that DEFRA looked like wasting 3 million poundsworth of vaccine unused, a fact cited by Craven, because of going out of date, is of course a cost that DEFRA would not have incurred if vaccination had been compulsory in the UK as the EU would have paid for the vaccine, (a fact not cited by Craven), and we would of course have used it.
Alick Simmons did not say that DEFRA wanted farmers to buy the vaccine because it was the cheapest option for DEFRA though not for the farmers.There is no facility to email Countryfile with my views on their unbalanced reporting.Many farmers are vaccinating in Wales at the moment; the local vets can't get enough of the vaccine.It is awkward waiting until lambs are one month old for the BTV8. I will have to vaccinate my lambs in 4 batches in this years long drawn out lambing (my last ewe lambed today). I have done 2 batches of lambs and will have to divide the remaining into 2 further batches.The vet told me that I should not use the BTV8 vaccine with any other. But in fact I vaccinate with heptavac-P+ at the same time as the BTV8, using different syringes and needles on different sides of the neck/shoulder, as there is still the second shot of heptavac-P+ to come 3 weeks after the first together with the orf vaccine, a live vaccine. As my lambs are already in 4 batches it is too difficult to give each vaccine dose separately 2 weeks apart.In humans we get on with giving multiple vaccines at one time (killed and live) safely and effectively - what is crucial is to leave the right gap between doses (killed or live) so that the immune response is allowed to develop to each vaccine exposure before a subsequent exposure.Yours sincerelyRuth